The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Power Up: Will there be a youth wave? Early voting points to yes

with Reis Thebault

Happy day before Election Day, Power people! Tips, recipes, comments? Reach out and sign up. 

Outside the Beltway

THE YOUTH WAVE?: Youth turnout rates in the midterm early vote are up by 125 percent compared to 2014, according to Catalist, a voter database servicing progressive organizations — an eye-popping and historically high figure, say strategists on both the left and the right.

Young Americans ages 18 to 29 who say they are definitely voting tilt leftward, according to polls. But the data also shows young Republicans are bubbling with enthusiasm headed into tomorrow. 

Here are the Catalist numbers for early voting:

Ballots Cast National — All Ages National — Under 30
2014 19,052,732 1,027,499
2016 41,014,969 4,143,982
2018 29,227,381 2,314,126
  • An “attitudinal” shift: A recent Harvard Institute of Politics poll indicated the most dramatic shift in their polling history is young people’s attitudes about whether politics makes a tangible difference in their lives. John Della Volpe, IOP's polling director, said pollsters saw a 15-point increase post-2016. 
  • Per the poll: Forty percent of 18 to 29-year-olds reported they will “definitely vote” in the midterms (54 percent of Democrats, 43 percent of Republicans and 24 percent of independents). 

  • 2020 implications: Among young people polled, 59 percent said they would “never” vote for President Trump vs. 11 percent who said they'd be “sure to” vote for him. 

  • Narratives vs. numbers: “Almost all of the data I’ve seen from the last two Harvard polls indicate a significant increase in enthusiasm, interest and likelihood of voting for people under 30 — so the data has been consistent but the narrative inconsistent,” Della Volpe told us. “The high-water mark going back 32 years is only 21 percent of young people turning out and participating in a midterm election.” 

  • 'A big boost': “The media expectation before AVEV (Absentee Voting/Early Voting) started, based on survey responses about enthusiasm, was that young people would not be a factor again,” a Democratic strategist told Power Up. “Clearly, they’re going to be, especially if those voting are as Democratic as they survey. It’s a big boost for Democrats’ hopes.”
  • GOP pollster: Chris Wilson, the CEO of WPA Intelligence, told us he thought it was a “bit too much” to call the turnout “historic.” But he said the electorate is looking younger “than both the 2016 and 2014 general elections. “Voters under 25 are outpacing their vote share from both the 2016 and 2014 general. Proportionately it’s not enough to make a huge difference, but it’s more,” Wilson said.

The Issues: Nine months after 17 students were killed in a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., Della Volpe's firm, SocialSphere, found that school shootings are the most worrisome issue to young Americans.

  • Surge in activism = a surge in voting: Tom Bonier, a Democratic  strategist and head of the firm Targetsmart, told us that skeptics initially cast doubt on the firm's findings that the “share of youth registrants nationwide increased by 2.16 percent” after the Parkland shooting in February.  A September memo showed that turnout among young people increased by an average of 4 percent in the 2018 primaries vs. 2014 primaries — and doubled in some battleground states compared to 2014. 
  • Pennsylvania: Per Bonier, “Pennsylvania . . . has seen youth voter registration surge by 10 points after [Parkland]. Youth voters make up nearly 60 percent of all new Pennsylvania registrants.”

The mass shooting generation is showing up: We spoke with Jackie Corin, co-founder of March for Our Lives, who voted for the first time last week. Corin, along with a handful of her peers, has been traveling the country, meeting with lawmakers and mass shooting survivors, speaking on college campuses and visiting communities to build what the group calls a “youth infrastructure” to carry over into 2020. 

  • Get woke:  Corin says she credits the big interest to issues young people care about “behind the names on the ballots . . . You're not just voting for this candidate but for your brother who might go to a college next year in an open carry state.”  
  • Civic engagement is cool: “Activism is becoming more of a normalized activity for teenagers — they are seeing their friends get involved with campaigns and issues and it’s spreading like wildfire,” Corin added. 
  • Twitter working against Trump?: Corin also credited the spike in awareness and engagement to Trump's Twitter habits. “The president uses Twitter as main source of communication and that’s something that young people see every single day — they’re always on Twitter and Instagram so they're more engaged about what's going on.”
  • Real progress: Since the Parkland shooting that killed 17, over 60 state laws have been passed tightening gun control. “The constant mass shootings are large motivators … it’s what has activated thousands and thousands of people across this country,” Corin said.

Final thoughts: There's been a lot of talk about "waves" this election cycle — from an energized Trump resistance, to suburban women suddenly engaged against the president. We've spent less time focusing on the youth vote because it hasn't historically turned out in off-year elections. We still don't know if the shift pollsters are seeing in early voting will be reflected at the ballot box. But it's definitely something we'll be watching closely tomorrow.


You are reading the Power Up newsletter.

Not a regular subscriber?

A record number of women were elected to the House of Representatives in 2018. The Washington Post spent time with some of them on the campaign trail. (Video: Alice Li, Sarah Hashemi, Kayla Epstein/The Washington Post)

On The Hill

NUMBERS TO KNOW: In an election of waves and firsts and high stakes for both parties, here are a few of the most important and most interesting numbers to know, digits that could define Election Day and the years after: 

  • Status quo: Today in the United States, for every woman in political office, there are three mena Post analysis found
  • On Tuesday, that could change: There are 276 women in the running for House, Senate and governor, according to the Center for American Women and Politics
  • Year of the Democratic woman?: There’s a partisan divide among this year’s field of female candidates, as 112 of the women are Democrats and 64 are Republicans.
  • First-timers: Of all the women running, 103 are first-time candidates, by The Post’s count. This could be a double-edged sword: first-timers have clout with those who are fed up with Washington’s ways, but new candidates often lack crucial fundraising and networking experience.
  • ‘Record year for diversity’: It’s not just women who are having a record year — 215 candidates for House, Senate and governor seats are black, Hispanic, Asian, Native American or multiracial, the New York Times found. Among them, 26 identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
  • The faces of change: The share of candidates who are white men — 58 percent — is the lowest it’s been in the past four elections, according to that Times analysis.
  • The #MeToo election: At least 25 candidates for federal and state-level offices ended their campaigns or bids for reelection after allegations of sexual harassment or misconduct, The Atlantic reported. That list is composed of 13 Democrats and 12 Republicans.
Oprah Winfrey appeared on the campaign trail Nov. 1, showing support for Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams (D). (Video: AP)

In the Media

WHAT TO WATCH: We asked The Post's Robert Costa to tell us what he'll be watching on Tuesday. Here's Bob:

  • Georgia on my mind: “You’ve got to keep a close eye on Georgia’s gubernatorial race between Democrat Stacey Abrams and Republican Brian Kemp ... If Abrams wins, she’ll be the nation’s first female African American governor. But politically, it’s also going to tell us a lot about the South and the Democrats as we turn to 2020 in the coming months.
  • A new model: “As I’ve noted on Twitter, Abrams told me months ago over iced teas in Atlanta that she saw her strategy as a new model for her party in the Deep South. Instead of focusing on courting moderate white voters, she said she would concentrate on stoking energy among 'white progressives' and 'communities of color.' Coupled with anti-Trump fervor, Abrams said that turnout could lift her statewide.”
  • Elsewhere: “Abrams’s playbook is similar to the ones being used by Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Tex.) in his Senate bid and by Democrat Andrew Gillum in Florida’s gubernatorial race.”
  • The big question: “Is an electrified Democratic coalition in states like Georgia now sufficient enough to carry Stacey Abrams and those like her to victory?”

Other must-read Post reporting from the final days:

At the White House

STAFF EXODUS: We've also got our eyes on impending drama about to go down in the administration. The Post's Ashley Parker, Josh Dawsey, and Phil Rucker report the Trump administration is bracing for a “massive staff shake-up in the weeks following the midterm elections, as the fates of a number of Cabinet secretaries and top White House aides are increasingly uncertain heading into a potentially perilous time for President Trump.” 

  • The list: “Among those most vulnerable to being dismissed are [Attorney General Jeff] Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein . . . Trump has routinely berated Sessions, whom he faults for the Russia investigation, but he and Rosenstein have forged an improved rapport in recent months . . . Other Cabinet officials — including Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and [Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen] Nielsen — also face uncertain futures.”
  • It goes on: “Other top figures, including Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and press secretary Sarah Sanders, also have been mentioned as possible departures in the coming months, though if they leave, they seem likely to do so of their own accord."
  • More!: “Deputy Chief of Staff Johnny DeStefano, newly married and starting a family, is similarly expected to exit soon.” 


One name wonders — The Post's 'Philip' and RiRi: